Easy Culinary Science for Better Cooking: Recipes for Everyday Meals Made Easier, Faster and More Delicious

Easy Culinary Science for Better Cooking: Recipes for Everyday Meals Made Easier, Faster and More Delicious

by Jessica Gavin
Easy Culinary Science for Better Cooking: Recipes for Everyday Meals Made Easier, Faster and More Delicious

Easy Culinary Science for Better Cooking: Recipes for Everyday Meals Made Easier, Faster and More Delicious

by Jessica Gavin


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Use Simple Science To Transform Good Dishes Into Great Dishes

Take the guesswork and mystery out of cooking and become an improved chef with Easy Culinary Science for Better Cooking.

In this book, the practical science behind great food is broken down in an accessible, digestible way without overwhelming even the greenest of cooks. Jessica Gavin’s approachable recipes seamlessly blend together food science and culinary arts, to maximize flavor potential.

Jessica will expand your skill set and confidence in the kitchen, all while creating tasty culinary masterpieces. Learn the science behind how things work, how foods interact from a cooking or baking perspective and how to make flavorful, flawless meals consistently. Whether it’s mastering a perfect Pan-Seared Ribeye with Miso Butter or Scallops with Garlic Sauce, accomplishing impeccable Eggs Benedict and Mushroom Risotto, or whipping up a sensational Blender Hollandaise Sauce, this book has it all.

Elevate your favorite recipes to make them phenomenal, faster and more delicious, any night of the week

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781624144844
Publisher: Page Street Publishing
Publication date: 05/08/2018
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 977,358
Product dimensions: 8.05(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.65(d)

About the Author

Jessica Gavin is a certified culinary scientist and food science industry professional with formal culinary school training. Her work has been featured on Food Network, USA Today, The Kitchn and more. She lives in Orange County, CA.

Read an Excerpt


dry-heat cooking


Learn how dry-heat cooking methods like grilling, roasting, baking, sautéing, pan-frying and deep-frying create the most interesting textures through the molecular act of browning. It's simple and it's all about knowing how to use heat combined with air or fat to develop visible flavor.

the simple science

When you want a burst of flavor, dry-heat cooking is your go-to method. It utilizes air or fat to cook food, and the result is layers of flavor with a nice brown color. Direct heat can be used to cook the food with an open flame (think campfire marshmallows) or with heated air (grilling, roasting, baking, broiling) or fat (deep-frying, sautéing, pan-frying). Learn about how to select the right oil for cooking in the Test Kitchen Tools & Tips section (here).


You've seen it countless times: the visible color change from a piece of raw meat to a golden brown surface. This complex chemical interaction is called the Maillard reaction, and it's responsible for flavor development when cooking with high, dry heat. You may not realize it, but as this physical change happens, a chain reaction of flavor compounds is being created. When foods like beef or chicken that contain protein and amino acids are heated, a reaction with reducing sugars like fructose and glucose occurs. New flavor compounds called dicarbonyls are created, but the process does not stop there. The sugars continue to react with amino acids, quickly creating an abundance of flavors on the food and in the cooking vessel. What you see is the final transformation of melanoidin pigment molecules naturally present in the food as a deep brown color appears. Different flavor compounds are formed depending on the type of protein being cooked and the sugars present. Therefore beef and chicken will taste different after cooking at high temperatures. This Maillard reaction happens when the surface temperature of the food reaches 300°F (149°C). The key is to make sure the surface of the food being cooked is dry to prevent steaming and promote the maximum amount of browning.

dry-heat cooking basics

Broiling: Broiling is a great option for quickly cooking food. Using an upper heat source like in an oven, the extreme heat radiating from above (scorching temperatures of up to 2,000°F [1,093°C]) makes for a rapid meal. If broiling in the oven, place the food about 6 to 7 inches (15 to 18 cm) away from the heat source and keep an eye on the food to make sure it doesn't burn.

Grilling: For lovers of the outdoors, grilling uses radiant heat from beneath the food to give gorgeous surface color, especially if you like those characteristic diamond-shaped cross marks. Grilling can take flavor to the next level if you are using wood, cedar or coal to infuse different layers of smoky flavors into the food.

Roasting: The oven uses hot air radiating from the nearby heating elements and walls to cook the food by convection. Temperatures can range from 200 to 500°F (90 to 260°C) depending on the type of meat or vegetable. Higher temperature encourages quicker browning and cooking, while lower temperature cooks more evenly and has more moisture retention, but takes longer. A combination of high-to-low heat may be used for initial browning on the surface, finished with low-temperature roasting, especially for larger roasts like beef, turkey or chicken.

Baking: The heat transfer process is very similar to roasting, yet is often used for fish, vegetables, bread, cookies, cakes and pastries. The goal in baking is to use the hot oven air to promote uniform cooking, while using the heat to achieve dry, browned surfaces and flavorful crusts over a period of time.

Sautéing: A fast and flavorful method of conduction cooking, where the heat transferred from the hot pan cooks the food. A little bit of oil or butter is used to just lightly coat the bottom of the pan, which helps keep the ingredients from sticking, while adding color and some flavor. The key for sautéing is using hot oil that is near its smoke point to cook the ingredients, but not burning the surface. Cutting foods to similar sizes, cooking in a single layer (while not overcrowding the pan) and briefly tossing the ingredients to encourage color development helps to ensure sauté success. Stir-frying utilizes the same method but a different cooking vessel, a wok. The round shape of the pan efficiently transfers the heat to the vessel, and then to the food. The sloped sides makes it easy for stirring the vegetables.

Pan-Frying: This method uses a sauté pan filled about one-third of the way or up to halfway with oil to cook the food. It's a popular technique to use for breaded food, like chicken Parmesan, when you want to achieve a crisp, golden crust and tender meat. Heating starts with conduction from the pan to the fat, then continues with convection of the hot oil to the food. The oil temperature should be below the smoking point. You can see the food sizzling and gently spattering in the oil, making a crackling sound.

Deep-Frying: This method completely submerges the breaded or battered food in hot oil for conduction and convection cooking. Depending on the type of oil chosen to fry the food, high temperatures of around 400°F (204°C) are reached to create beautiful golden brown textures on the surface in a short amount of time. Canola, peanut and soybean oils are most commonly used because they have a high smoke point, the temperature when the fat breaks down and begins to visibly smoke. The goal is to have the hot oil instantly seal and fry the outside, and cook the inside, without burning the surface. The temperature of the oil can be adjusted based on the type that is selected; however, a typical range of 325 to 375°F (160 to 191°C) is used. Make sure to have an instant-read thermometer that can read above 400°F (204°C) before you start deep-frying. The differences in temperature can change quickly and will greatly impact the fried product if not closely monitored throughout the process.

blackened salmon tacos with avocado yogurt lime sauce


These blackened salmon tacos are reminiscent of eating fresh seafood by the ocean during college road trips down to Baja California in Mexico. To make these tacos healthier, spices are used to achieve a low-calorie explosion of flavor. To instantly boost the taste of the salmon, a blend of earthy cumin, garlic, onion and paprika, balanced with a hint of heat from chipotle chilis and sweetness from brown sugar creates savory, smoky, spicy notes in each bite! The volatile molecules are sent rushing to your nose and provide the initial characteristic flavor impact. Pan-frying the spice-coated salmon in oil additionally helps to release fat-soluble flavor compounds. The cool and creamy avocado sauce complements the spicy notes of the seasoning for an irresistible handheld meal.

SERVES: 4 | PREP TIME: 15 minutes | COOK TIME: 5 minutes


1 serrano chili pepper, cut in half and seeded

1 tsp paprika
Suggested toppings: cilantro, serrano peppers, cabbage, limes, avocado, pickled onions (here)

To make the sauce, process the serrano peppers, yogurt, avocado, lime juice, lime zest, cilantro, salt and water in a food processor or blender until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

To make the seasoning, combine the paprika, brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, chipotle chili powder, salt and black pepper in a small bowl. Season the salmon with about ½ teaspoon of the spice blend on each side.

In a large, 12-inch (30-cm) cast-iron skillet or sauté pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Place the salmon in the pan, and cook until the surface is browned and crisp, and the fish flakes easily with a fork, about 2 to 3 minutes on the first side. Flip the fish over and cook for 1½ to 2 minutes. Make sure to turn on a cooking vent or open the windows as the hot skillet may smoke due to the smoke point of the oil and the hot temperature required to achieve the blackened appearance and flavor.

Serve the blackened salmon in warmed tortillas and topped with the avocado yogurt lime sauce.


To achieve a crispy blackened surface, a small amount of brown sugar is added to the dry rub and the fish is pan-fried in smoking hot oil.

Blooming the spices in the oil intensifies the flavors and aromas, which are quickly transferred to the surface of the fish and the oil.


Sugar, also known as sucrose, is a disaccharide composed of two simple sugar molecules, glucose and fructose. In the presence of heat, the sugar breaks down into these molecules. At around 200°F (93°C), the fructose begins to caramelize and deep brown pigments are formed on the surface. With a preheated pan and continuous exposure to high heat, the surface temperature of the fish easily reaches the 200-degree (93-degree) mark.

wok-fired orange garlic shrimp


Skip the takeout because this orange garlic shrimp is bursting with flavor and is ready in only 15 minutes! A complete meal of protein and vegetables all in one pot, plus a sweet and sticky sauce to coat each piece of succulent shrimp. The fresh orange juice combined with savory chicken stock, soy sauce, honey, lemon and a hint of spicy chili complements the delicate flavors of the shrimp.

SERVES: 4 | PREP TIME: 15 minutes | COOK TIME: 10 minutes


½ cup (118 ml) orange juice

1 lb (454 g) large shrimp, 16/20 count size, peeled and deveined
To make the sauce, whisk together the orange juice, orange zest, chicken stock, soy sauce, honey, lemon juice, red chili flakes (if using) and cornstarch in a medium-size bowl. Set the sauce aside.

Prepare the shrimp by patting it dry between two paper towels to remove as much moisture as possible. In a medium-size bowl, combine the shrimp, salt, pepper and sesame oil.

Cooking the shrimp and vegetables in a single layer and at separate times allows for maximum browning. Heat a wok or 12-inch (30-cm) skillet over high heat. Add the oil and heat until just beginning to smoke. Add the shrimp to the pan in a single layer and cook for 1 minute. Flip the shrimp over and cook until pink, about 1 minute. Transfer the cooked shrimp to a clean plate.

Add the bell peppers and sugar snap peas to the wok in a single layer and allow to cook for 1 minute without moving. Stir the vegetables and cook until lightly browned and crisp, about 30 seconds. Add the garlic and ginger to the pan, and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Whisk the orange sauce and then gradually add it to the side of the pan, stirring the sauce continuously as it gathers in the bottom of the pan. Allow the sauce to boil for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring continuously, until the sauce is thickened. Add the shrimp to the pan and allow to warm, 1 minute. Season the shrimp and vegetables with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve the shrimp garnished with green onions, sesame seeds and cilantro.


Prevent sauces from becoming lumpy by mixing the cornstarch into cold water or liquid before heating. As you heat the sauce, make sure to keep stirring to allow the starch granules to swell independently for sauce-thickening success!


The quick stir-frying method relies on selecting the right cooking vessel, heat level and not overloading the pan. Woks are unique because the round bottom shape creates a large surface area so the shrimp and vegetables can be cooked quickly. A large flat-bottomed skillet can also be used and works great for even browning of the food. It's important to preheat the wok and oil over high heat, so the oil can reach scorching-hot temperatures of 415°F (212°C). This will encourage browning of the ingredients from the Maillard reaction, imparting flavor and color to the dish.

chinese chicken lettuce wraps


One of my favorite cooking vessels to use at home is my wok. I grew up to the sounds of the clanging metal spatula hitting the side of the pan when my grandparents and mom would prepare dinner, making the perfect stir-fry. Using a little bit of oil in a sizzling hot pan, a quick and flavorful meal or appetizer is ready in minutes. It's an ideal dish because one pan delivers chicken, vegetables and a savory sauce with less clean up. The seasoned chicken and vegetables in large lettuce cups, topped with green onions and crunchy peanuts, adds layers of flavors and textures to each handheld wrap.

MAKES: 12 wraps | PREP TIME: 20 minutes | COOK TIME: 10 minutes

2 tbsp (30 ml) vegetable oil, divided
To keep the pan nice and hot, the vegetables are cooked first. Natural moisture from the vegetables can initially bring down the temperature of the wok, which is why they are stir-fried and removed from the pan. This gives the wok and additional oil time to come back to a high temperature and makes ample room for the chicken to properly brown. In a wok, heat 2 teaspoons (10 ml) of vegetable oil and sesame oil over high heat until very hot. Add the shallots to the pan and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, mushrooms and carrots, and stir-fry for 4 minutes.

Push the vegetables to the side of the pan and add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil to the center of the pan. Once the oil heats up, add the garlic and ginger, and cook until fragrant but not overly browned, about 15 seconds. Mix the vegetables back in with the garlic and ginger. Transfer the vegetables to a medium-size bowl and set aside.

Return the wok to the stove and heat the remaining tablespoon (15 ml) of vegetable oil over high heat. Draining any residual liquid from the ground chicken will help the chicken brown instead of steam when it hits the pan. Add the ground chicken to the hot pan and stir-fry, breaking up the chicken into smaller chunks, about 4 minutes or until the meat is no longer pink. Add the hoisin sauce, soy sauce, stir-fried vegetables, salt and pepper to the meat, and stir to combine.

To serve, add about ¼ cup (58 g) of chicken filling to each lettuce leaf, and garnish with the green onion and peanuts. Drizzle the lettuce wraps with the hoisin sauce if desired.


Many traditional Chinese stir-fry recipes call for the garlic and ginger to be cooked first thing in the hot oil. This is okay if using large slices of ginger or garlic. However, when minced, there is a higher chance of burning the aromatics. That's why the garlic and ginger are added at the end of cooking the vegetables and only heated for a few seconds. This will still impart pungent flavor without scorched notes.


Cooking over high heat in the round bottom vessel encourages quick browning of the ingredients through the Maillard reaction. However, the oil must reach 415°F (212°C) for browning to occur. This imparts flavors to the chicken, even before the sauce is added.


Excerpted from "Easy Culinary Science For Better Cooking"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Jessica Gavin.
Excerpted by permission of Page Street Publishing Co..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction 9

What Is Culinary Science? 13

Dry-Heat Cooking: Turn Up the Heat for Quick Flavor 15

Moist - Heat Cooking: Let the Water Do the Work 67

Braising & Stewing: When Two Techniques are Better Than One 93

Slow Cooking: Save Time with a Slow Cooker 117

Emulsification & Thickening: Elevated Add-Ons 135

Chemical Leavening: Speed Up Baking with Quick Shortcuts 153

Yeast Leavening: A Foolproof Way to Rise Up 177

Test Kitchen Tools & Tips 193

Conversions & Equivalents 207

Acknowledgments 212

About The Author 215

Index 216

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